Hot Topics: Love, Sex and Intimacy
(Column: Sex and Relationships)
I've been on psych meds for a long time and for a long time my sexual energy has been too low for me to even consider having intimate relations. Thanks to my complaining and my desire to experience intimacy with another person, I convinced my doc to lower my dosage. Now I have more sexual energy and I'm ready to meet new people. Still, my doc wants me to report any symptoms I may get on the lower dose. Since I'm very new to this whole dating world, I am hoping to have your advice on the best way to approach someone for intimacy. And where's the best place to meet someone? I hear and read stories about people meeting at clubs, bars, on the train, through work or volunteering, wherever. I get so nervous, I don't know how to break the ice. You only get one chance to make a first impression and you may never see a person again unless s/he is interested and wants to stay in touch with you. I'm ready, but not prepared. Please help! —Anonymous, New York, New York
Lance: May I congratulate you on the new revived you! Many of us get used to these side effects way too readily. For fear of an adverse reaction with our mental health, many of us don't research options with our doctors and could now join the ranks of clergy in accepting celibacy.
As you become more confident to return to the exciting world of dating, the absolute best thing to remember is not to take yourself too seriously, but be genuine to yourself. Now this becomes hard to do as every meeting of a potential love interest is different. I have a writer-friend who does not drink and is not into the whole pick-up scene, but his cute and genuinely true line of "would you like to go out for a slice of pie?"—whether it's so damned weird or harmless, it nevertheless gets a reaction. Breaking the ice is way easier than everyone makes it out to be. I was surprised to learn from an episode of "Real Sex" on HBO that the most effective pick-up line between total strangers is, "Hi! I'm ______, what's your name?" But getting up the courage to do that is a whole other story. Most of the dating success I've seen has to do with an intangible thing that can be worked on and cultivated called self-esteem.
Many people end up meeting their most significant other at functions: a support group meeting, a friend's private party, or a class. I can count on one hand the amount of times I managed to date someone after we met on the train or at a bar. I would much rather go the route of common interests.
Remember the Boy Scout motto "Always be prepared." Cultivate your interests so that you become interesting, practice confidence by saying "hello," listen and have fun. One of the best things in life are our interpersonal relationships, whether they are romantic, friends or family. So please let me know how this preliminary plan goes, and I urge all of you to write in with more questions, comments, suggestions and critiques.
Fiona: I second Lance in congratulating you for reentering the dating scene! Intimate sexual relationship can be rich and rewarding. However, I am somewhat concerned that you seem somewhat preoccupied with the sexual aspects of intimacy. I am certainly no prude and have had my fair share of "booty calls," however, I have always entered these "relationships" with a clear understanding of the parameters. The dating scene can be a humbling experience for the most confident, let alone someone like yourself who has been out of commission for some time. I encourage to you do a self-inventory before you decide to start dating again. What type of relationship are you looking for: casual, serious, long-term, primarily sexual, etc? Are there certain issues that you are unwilling to compromise on (marriage, religion, children/family tend to be the big three)? This may sound like a lot of extra work but I think having a sense of where you stand regarding these issues will save you a great deal of grief in the long run. It is ok to not be ready for a long-term relationship, just make sure you are communicating this with your perspective partner.
Finally, in regard to meeting that special someone, I wish I possessed the magic line that would ensure success (so do most single women). Sadly, I don't. However, I agree with Lance that practice makes perfect. It has also been my experience that people who have successful and active dating lives also tend to have excellent social skills, a strong support network, and a healthy sense of self. So I would encourage you to think about dating as one component of an overall wellness plan.
Take stock of your current situation; do you have a close social circle? Are you happy with your current support network? Now that you've taken inventory, take action! Develop a plan to meet new people. Start small, challenge yourself to say hello to someone new each day, think of a group you've wanted to join or an activity you would like to participate in and get involved. Most importantly, have fun and try not to take yourself too seriously. Thousands of single New Yorkers have been in your situation. By taking on this new challenge with its risks, failures and successes, you will grow into a healthier, more secure human being.